Yalanji is a family of Turkish and Levantine mezze dishes without meat. Devised by the ottomans, the word “yalanji” means “false”, since they contain no meat. Yalanji dishes, which can be a variety of vegetables or leaves stuffed with meatless aromatic rice, are also cooked in olive oil, and served cold or at room temperature. They make great vegan mezze treats to add to your summer spread.
We offer the recipe using fresh grape leaves as the flavour and texture are superior to that of canned leaves. As a result, this is a dish best prepared in the early summer when fresh grapes leaves are growing but still tender.
1 cup short-grain rice, rinsed well and drained.
2 TBL butter
2 TBL olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
1-cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and diced
3 TBL pine nuts
1 tsp allspice ground
1 tsp cinnamon ground
1 tsp coriander ground
1 tsp Aleppo chile
1.5 tsp Salt
¼ cup fresh herbs chopped (parsley and/or cilantro, dill, mint)
50 vine leaves, de-stemmed, and blanched in hot water for 1-2 minutes, then rinsed in cold water and drained.
Cooked aromatic rice (above)
¾ cup olive oil
1 cup water
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
Juice of half a lemon
In a medium pot, Sauté onions in butter and olive oil over medium-low heat until soft (10-15 minutes).
Add garlic and ginger. Sauté for 1 minute.
Add pine nuts. Sauté for 3 minutes.
Add spices and Aleppo pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes.
Add drained rice and salt. Sauté for 2 minutes.
Add one and a half cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover, simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the herbs. Transfer rice to a bowl to cool down.
Roll the blanched vine leaves: place a vine leaf on a board and place a teaspoon of aromatic rice at the base. Fold the stem edge over the filling, then fold the two side edges in towards the stem to seal the filling in. roll the leaf up like a small tight cigar. Repeat with the rest of leaves.
In a small bowl mix together olive oil, water, sugar, salt, and lemon juice.
Line the base of a deep medium pot with a couple of flat vine leaves or sliced onions to cover the bottom and prevent sticking. Place the rolled leaves in the pot side by side, packing tightly.
Pour the olive oil mixture on top of the leaves and place a heat-resistant plate on top to prevent them from unraveling.
Place the pot on medium heat and bring to A boil. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for 1 hour. Remove pot from heat and leave Yalanji to cool completely in the pot. Then place the entire pot in the fridge overnight. (if you try to remove vine leaves from the pot when they are hot they might fall apart).
The following day, remove pot from the fridge and bring to room temperature, then transfer vine leaves to a serving plate.
Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper.